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Narrative Image: The How and Why of Visual Storytelling

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Narrative Image: The How and Why of Visual Storytelling

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Explores the basics of how images communicate. Looks at various types of visual narratives. Presented to the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators at the 2011 national conference in Olympia, WA on July 12, 2011.

Explores the basics of how images communicate. Looks at various types of visual narratives. Presented to the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators at the 2011 national conference in Olympia, WA on July 12, 2011.

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Narrative Image: The How and Why of Visual Storytelling

  1. Narrative Image The how & why of visual storytelling By Daniela Molnar
  2. Stories are integral to human culture. Visual stories are a powerfully direct method of conveying information, ideas, and cultural wisdom.
  3. Part 1: How do images communicate? Part 2: Types of narrative images
  4. Part 1: How do images communicate?
  5. Images tell stories using semiotics, a sort of visual grammar. > Semiotics < Visual cues, or signs, are combined into patterns that transmit messages to the viewer.
  6. Philosopher/scientist Charles Sanders Peirce (1839 - 1914) categorized signs as iconic symbolic indexical
  7. An iconic sign looks like what it represents -- a portrait or a scientific illustration, for example.
  8. A symbolic sign does not look like what it represents and its meaning must be learnt. Its meaning is fundamentally arbitrary because it is based on cultural associations. For example, a stop sign, a flag, a traffic light, a company’s logo, or the Statue of Liberty.
  9. An indexical sign is a clue that links meanings. Its association with this meaning is not arbitrary but is physically or causally connected. Smoke, for example, is an indexical sign of fire; a pointing finger is an indexical sign of whatever it is pointing at; 90 degrees on a thermometer is an indexical sign that it is hot out.
  10. “heart” iconic symbolic indexical
  11. All of these types of signs are used in combination in visual communication. This is how images tell stories. iconic, symbolic, & indexical
  12. Walton Ford, Falling Bough, 2002 Iconic: This is an identifiable scene; the log looks like a log, the pigeons like pigeons, the sky like a sky, etc. We can look into this landscape as we look at the world. Symbolic: In cultural terms, the passenger pigeons represent societal shortsightedness, bloodlust, and violence against nature. They also represent species extinction, and, more broadly, environmental destruction. Indexical: The falling log suggests imminent danger or destruction. The sunset colors suggest a time of transition. The strong diagonal composition creates a sense of unease in the viewer.
  13. Images have the power to impact how cultural messages are transmitted and received. This gives them the power to alter the culture itself. In March 2010, the Obama administration appointed Edward Tufte to a panel advising the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board (RAT Board), which monitors the way the $787 billion in the stimulus package is being spent.
  14. Republicans released the above graphic explaining how the Democratic healthcare plan will—or won't—work. The process looks horrifyingly complex; how will we get our insurance?!
  15. This chart, which explains the same process, was released by the Democratic party. It’s soothing tones and rounded edges suggest that the new system will be as delightful as ice cream on a sunny day.
  16. Part 2: Types of narrative images
  17. > Flavored < A subjective, editorialized depiction of a thing, person or place. The story is in the implied viewpoint. Another term for the “flavor” of an image is its connotative meaning. Many images have a denotative meaning that differs from their connotative meaning. The denotative meaning is the literal meaning of the image, while the connotative meaning is the implied meaning, or the “flavor.”
  18. Flavor can be thought of a meta- narrative that is present in all images in varying degrees. F lavored Linear Paneled Aggregate
  19. Some of the most obvious examples of flavored images can be found in advertising. The literal, or denotative meaning of the original ad: This guy is a pretty smooth character and he smokes Camel cigarettes. The implied, connotative, flavored meaning of the original ad: Our cigarettes will make you rich, sexy and powerful. The literal, or denotative meaning of the Adbusters ad: Joe Camel is now Joe Chemo and he is sitting sadly in a hospital bed alone. The implied, connotative, flavored meaning of the Adbusters ad: Cigarettes will not make you rich, sexy or powerful, but they will kill you.
  20. Even scientific images can be flavored. The author of the Pernkopf Anatomy atlas, Eduard Pernkopf, was a leading Nazi who purged the University of Vienna medical faculty of Jews. It is thought that the cadavers portrayed in the Atlas’ paintings are likely victims of Nazi concentration camps. The denotative, literal meaning of this illustration: this is how the muscles of the face, throat, and shoulder look. The connotative, flavored meaning: some human life is disposable.
  21. > Linear < Depicts the passage of time and/or space in a single image > Aggregate < Depicts (non-temporal) relationships between things in a single image composed of multiple parts > Paneled < Depicts the passage of time and/or space in multiple sequenced images
  22. > Linear < Depicts the passage of time and/or space in a single image Piero della Francesca, Battle between Heraclius and Chosroes, c. 1460
  23. Piero della Francesca, The Discovery and Proving of the True Cross, c. 1455
  24. Chauvet Cave
  25. Maria Sibylla Merian
  26. Hadley Hooper, illustration about Parkinsons disease
  27. > Aggregate < Depicts relationships between things in a single image composed of multiple parts Wendy Zomlefer
  28. Lilian Snellling, Aerides houlletianum
  29. From Colors 13, the wordless issue. Art directed by Tibor Kalman
  30. Galileo’s engravings of the moon in Sidereus Nuncius, 1610
  31. Robert Weaver, April 1959, Esquire
  32. > Paneled < Depicts the passage of time and/or space in multiple sequenced images Bayeux tapestry, c. 1077. 224 ft long embroidered cloth which depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England as well as the events of the invasion itself.
  33. Luoshenfu, Gu Kai Zhi, 344-406 CE
  34. ST MATTHEW I S LAN D
  35. How paneled images tell stories > Closure < > The frame as time < > Transitions < > Interdependent words & images <
  36. > Closure < Closure is the psychological leap that is essential to make paneled images work. Closure occurs in the gutter, in the space between panels.
  37. > The frame as time < The frame is a unit of time – it can be a second, a minute, an hour, or an eternity. The dimensions (and shape) of the panel are as important as the space between the panels, as well as the placement of the panel on the page.
  38. > Transitions < There are six major types of transitions between frames, each of which has a different effect on the pacing of the story. moment-to-moment subject-to-subject aspect-to-aspect requires very little closure shows different people or things transitions between aspects of a in a scene or idea place, idea, or mood action-to-action scene-to-scene non-sequitur single subject in a process spans significant distances of no logical relationship - lots of time or space closure required
  39. scene-to-scene spans significant distances of time or space aspect-to-aspect transitions between aspects of a place, idea, or mood
  40. > Interdependent words & images < Most, though not all, comics rely on a combination of words and images to convey an idea. If the story is driven mainly by the imagery, then the words The words are telling most of the story here can wander in many directions. If the story is driven mainly by the words, then the images can wander, becoming more abstract and The image is telling most of the story here utilizing more closure. No words
  41. Suspended In Language: Niels Bohr’s Life, Discoveries, And The Century He Shaped By Jim Ottaviani, Illustrated by Leland Purvis, Roger Langridge, Jay Hosler, Steve Leialoha, Linda Medley, Jeff Parker
  42. Other titles by Jim Ottaviani Published by G.T. Labs
  43. Clan Apis By Jay Hosler
  44. how
  45. why
  46. Visual stories are a uniquely powerful way to communicate. They have the power to change the way we understand the world.

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